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Egypt - Politics

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a former general who led the military overthrow of his elected but divisive Islamist predecessor in 2013, waged an unprecedented crackdown on dissent under el-Siss. Thousands have been imprisoned, with some rights advocates putting the number as high as 60,000.

Activists and organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented enforced disappearances, widespread torture and a recent arrest campaign targeting people authorities believe are gay. The authorities have blocked hundreds of independent news and critical websites. Critics say el-Sissi is a dictator who cannot stand any form of opposition or real criticism. He jails journalists for doing their jobs, youth for expressing their opinions, writers for writing fiction that violates 'public morality,' gays for coming out, supporters of LGBTQ for daring to support diversity, and he has blocked more than 400 different websites and media platforms.

El-Sissi denies that Egypt tortures or has any political prisoners, and maintains that human rights are only one among several pressing issues his government is addressing, such as improving the economy and providing stability.

Abdel Fattah el-Sissi was inaugurated June 08, 2014 as Egypt's eighth president, less than a year after he helped oust the country's first freely elected leader, Islamist Mohamed Morsi. Egypt's election commission said 03 June 2014 that Former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi took nearly 97 percent of the vote in the Presidential race. Turnout was about 47 percent of Egypt's 54 million voters, the commission said - less than the 40 million votes, or 80 percent of the electorate, that Sissi had called for.

Preliminary results from the three-day extended vote gave Sissi more than 93 percent of ballots cast. Officials said about 46 percent of Egypt's 54 million eligible voters participated in the poll, less than the 52 percent turnout secured during the 2012 election of Mohamed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood urged a boycott of the vote.

Election officials said just 35 percent of the 54 million eligible voters cast ballots in the first two days of polls, a significant drop from 52 percent who participated during the 2012 election won by ousted Islamist Mohammed Morsi. A high turnout was seen as key to legitimizing Sissi's long-assumed win. The two-day vote was extended for a third day to allow for more participants. Despite the effort, polling in many areas still was reported low. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood had urged Egyptians to boycott the vote.

Egypt’s election commission announced 30 March 2014 that the first round of the presidential elections would take place on May 26 and 27. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army general who deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July last year, had announced his intention to run and was widely expected to win. The former army general, who toppled Egypt's Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, faced a leftist politician in the presidential election, as they were the only candidates to enter before nominations closed, the committee organizing the vote said on 20 April 2014.

The committee had received paperwork from former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and former parliamentarian and presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, it said at a news conference several hours after the deadline had passed. Abdelaziz Salman, secretary-general of the Presidential Elections Committee, said that Sisi had submitted 188,930 signatures endorsing his candidacy to the committee, and Sabahi had submitted 31,555. The required number was 25,000. The committee announced the official list of candidates on May 2 for the vote on May 26-27. Sisi, whose popularity had soared since he deposed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer following massive protests, was expected to win the vote easily.

According to a 22 May 2014 Amnesty International (AI) report, more than 1,000 persons missing since the 2011 revolution remained unaccounted for, including dozens of new cases reported during the year. According to AI, security forces reportedly held between 30 and 400 civilians in secret at al-Azouly Prison inside al-Galaa Military Camp in Ismailia. Authorities did not charge the detainees with crimes or refer them to prosecutors or courts and prevented access to their lawyers and families. Local CSOs asserted the continual detention of civilians inside the al-Azouly Prison amounted to enforced disappearance.

There were reports of political prisoners and detainees, although verifiable estimates were not available. The government claimed there were no political prisoners and all persons in detention had been or were in the process of being, charged with a crime. Human rights groups and international observers maintained the government detained or imprisoned as many as several thousand persons solely or chiefly because of their political beliefs or opposition to the government. A local rights group considered any persons arrested under the 2013 demonstrations law to be political prisoners. In their view these persons were political prisoners or detainees because authorities held them based on laws that restricted the exercise of a human right, because charges were false or inflated motivated by the individual’s political opinion or membership in a particular group, or because some individuals faced unduly harsh and disproportionate treatment due to their political opinions or membership in particular groups.

Egypt had not had a parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the body dominated by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, a group that is now banned and labeled as a terrorist organization.

On October 17, 2015, Egyptian citizens headed to the polls to elect members of the House of Representatives. The elections represented the final milestone of a transitional roadmap following the removal of former President Mohamed Morsi from office in July 2013.

Egypt’s electoral system is comprised of two majoritarian components: the first consists of individual candidates competing for seats, while the second component consists of electoral lists competing for seats. Both political party members and independents can run as individual candidates or on electoral lists. Out of the 568 seats, 448 seats would be elected through individual candidates competing in majoritarian elections in single and multi-member districts. The remaining 120 seats would be elected through electoral lists competing for seats in majoritarian winner-takes-all elections in four electoral districts.

The first phase involved 14 provinces voting 17-18 October 2015, and the remaining areas going to polls in early December. Egyptians living abroad had the chance to vote on 17 October 2015. Political parties are largely sidelined in the long-delayed parliament election, with three-quarters of the seats designated for candidates running as independents.

Egyptian authorities granted government workers a half-day off in an attempt to boost low turnout for the country's first parliamentary elections since a chamber dominated by Islamists was dissolved by a court ruling in 2012. But voters appeared to be shunning the ballot box for a second day, highlighting growing disillusionment since the army seized power in 2013 and promised to restore democracy. The low voting levels were in sharp contrast to the long lines of the 2011-12 election.

Analysts said the turnout may not exceed 10 percent.

Egyptians returned to polling places to vote 27Octoer 2016 in run-off elections for more than 200 parliamentary seats where no clear winner emerged in first-round elections. Only about 26 percent of eligible voters turned out for round one of Egypt's first parliamentary elections in three years. The elections were widely expected to strengthen President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi's grip on power. Voters cast ballots in 14 of the country's 27 provinces to fill the 596-member parliament.

The official results from the first round of Egyptian parliamentary elections indicated that the big winner was a pro-government alliance headed by a former intelligence general, taking 60 out of the 120 seats up for grabs. Final results were scheduled to be announced in December and the 596-seat chamber was expected to hold its inaugural session later in the month.

When the election law earmarked 75 percent of the parliament seats for independent candidates it weakened the idea of parliamentary blocs and transformed the upcoming parliament into a parliament of interests of individual members.

On December 02, 2015 Egypt wrapped up its parliamentary election, and results were expected to show a win for supporters of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. The final phase of voting came to an end on 15 December 2015. Results from the remaining electoral run-offs that took place in mid-December continued to come in. Some analysts, however, said widespread low turnout, reports of vote buying and other irregularities could later be used as reasons to dissolve the lawmaking body.

On 20 January 2016 Egypt held an opening session of parliament, the chamber's first session in more than three years. The assembly had 15 days to ratify hundreds of executive decrees issued by President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, or the laws will be repealed. Egypt had not had a parliament since 2012 when a court dissolved the democratically elected legislature that had been dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood of the country's former president Mohamed Morsi.

In January 2017 the Washington-based, USAID-funded research group Freedom House released its annual “Freedom in the World” report: "Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who seized power in a 2013 coup, has been praised by some democratic politicians—especially those on the right—for toppling an unpopular Islamist incumbent and ruthlessly cracking down on both the former president’s peaceful supporters and an armed insurgency led by the Islamic State militant group. Sisi is held up as a promising partner in the fight against Islamist terrorism.

"A closer look at his performance reveals not just a feckless and thuggish security apparatus that has failed to quell the insurgency, but also a pattern of corruption and economic mismanagement that is bringing Egypt to its knees. The ongoing violence and political repression have crippled the vital tourism industry. Billions of dollars in aid from the Persian Gulf monarchies have been wasted, partly on megaprojects of dubious value that enrich regime cronies. And in 2016 the government began implementing austerity measures in exchange for an emergency bailout from the International Monetary Fund, driving up prices for food staples and angering an already desperate population."

The most significant human rights problems were excessive use of force by security forces, deficiencies in due process, and the suppression of civil liberties. Excessive use of force included unlawful killings and torture. Due process problems included the excessive use of preventative custody and pretrial detention, the use of military courts to try civilians, trials involving hundreds of defendants in which authorities did not present evidence on an individual basis, and arrests conducted without warrants or judicial orders. Civil liberties problems included societal and government restrictions on freedoms of expression and the media, as well as on the freedoms of assembly and association in statute and practice.

Other human rights problems included disappearances; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; a judiciary that in some cases appeared to arrive at outcomes not supported by publicly available evidence or that appeared to reflect political motivations; reports of political prisoners and detainees; restrictions on academic freedom; impunity for security forces; harassment of some civil society organizations; limits on religious freedom; official corruption; and limits on civil society organizations.

The Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown, its leaders jailed or on the run, and the Egyptian military was again ruling the country. Egypt's army ousted democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 and launched a crackdown on his supporters that left hundreds of people dead. The interim government then imposed a state of emergency and nightly curfew to restore control. At the same time, the military-backed government is moving ahead with a transition plan that envisions elections for a new president and parliament next year. Morsi was being held awaiting trial on charges of inciting murder and violence. Egyptian authorities acted November 13, 2013 to end the three-month state of emergency, a step that may help the army-backed government restore a semblance of normalcy after turmoil ignited by the military overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi.

At some point, a way must be found to reintegrate supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and liberal groups back into the political process. The former are too numerous and influential to isolate or expunge, while the latter was responsible for sparking the 2011 revolution and is the source of innovation and intellectual heft. Both groups are likely to be emboldened by the low turnout for Sissi and to continue protests both inside and outside Egypt that will scare away tourists and potential investors.

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